JM Williams

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SHARE: 9 Tips to Become a Better Self-Editor


I stumbled on this great little list of editing tips and thought it worth sharing. Many of these are common ideas, but it doesn’t hurt to see them again and reinforce them in your mind. Some of these are basic review techniques, others are larger exercises that function more to train you as a writer.

I do not agree with all these tips fully. In particular, I don’t think it is good to attach yourself too much to model story (tip #3). Yes, fiction and writing in general is all derivative, all borrowed to some extent. But your focus should be on what sets your work apart from your predecessors and influences, not what is the same. Publishers and editors are very knowledgeable about the literature of the past and they will see it clearly if your piece is simply a copy of another work in new skin. They will also be quick to notice how your story diverges from convention and that will often be a motivation to accept or reject the work. With my current book, I am going out of my way to do something structurally different and to avoid common conventions, that is itself sort of the concept of the book.

I think that editing others’ work is one of the best ways to improve as a writer. You will often notice in other writing issues that you are also apt to do yourself. It might take several times of you catching the trouble in other writing before it clicks in your own head, but it will happen. Another important point of the editing process is negotiation with the author. Many workshops ask the author to remain silent during critiques of their work. This is important to save time and avoid protracted arguments. However, when you do a personal review for a friend, you can dig into deeper discussion and get to see how they think as a writer and creator, what issues are most important to them and what they try to do with their writing.

As always, I hope this article helps my fellow authors out their get better with their craft. That is why I bother to share this stuff.

9 Tips to Become a Better Self-Editor

Writers are often bad editors of their own work.

Even when they are fantastic draft writers, they need help from an outside eye to get it to the next level. Still, there are some easy tips that will improve your skills as an editor of your own work…READ MORE

9 Responses to SHARE: 9 Tips to Become a Better Self-Editor

  1. thanks JM for this share and your additional words in the beginning. Lots of new things, first time in fact for me and I do need to be brutal with somethings if I am ever going to get to a level that a piece might even be considered for publication. Helpful, insightful, hurtful in some parts but eye opening nonetheless. Admire your steadfast commitment to improve yourself and help others along the way, may your books prosper and live long among the shelves!

    • I don’t think you are as far as you seem to imagine. I think you have good instincts as a storyteller, the rest comes with practice (and a thick skin).

      • Thank you for that! Though I prefer honest constructive criticism then the its nice! Need some real people like you around more! That skin has to be built up I guess and with practice yes true.

  2. Thank, great tips. I’ve become much more brutal at editing my own work over time — but it’s still a difficult task. Taking a break and coming back to it often gives me a fresh perspective and makes me realise how truly awful something is.

    • It’s funny, I had the opposite experience coming back to my book manuscript for the third draft. Its been like six weeks I think since I saw it last. This time around I am surprised at how good it seems. Maybe I am just ready for it to be over.

      • That’s a good sign! And an exciting feeling. I get some of those sometimes, as though I don’t remember writing it — but mostly they are of the awful kind. Is this to be the final draft then?

        • Mostly final. I’m actually adding another chapter, so I will need my editor to review that and do a final proofing. Then done, hopefully.

          • Exciting! Good luck and keep us posted.

          • I will. I imagine it will be several months before it is close to publishing though. I am going to try to get an agent and sell to a traditional publishing house. I can’t really guess how long that will take.

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